Study Guide

Dracula

by Bram Stoker

Dracula Themes

Themes

Salvation and Damnation
As several characters note in the novel, a person's physical life is of secondary importance to the person's eternal life, which can be jeopardized if the person is made evil by a vampire like Dracula. Professor Van Helsing says, when he is explaining why they must kill the vampire Lucy, "But of the most blessed of all, when this now Un-Dead be made to rest as true dead, then the soul of the poor lady whom we love shall again be free." Even characters that are of questionable goodness, such as the mental patient, R. M. Renfield, realize that, although they can find immortality by being a vampire, they cannot find salvation. Renfield says, when he is begging Dr. Seward to let him go, not explaining that he is afraid of his master, Dracula: "Don't you know that I am sane and earnest now; that I am no lunatic in a mad fit, but a sane man fighting for his soul?" When Mina is distraught after realizing that Dracula has started to turn her into a vampire, Van Helsing warns her to stay alive if she wants to achieve her salvation. "Until the other, who has fouled your sweet life, is true dead you must not die; for if he is still with the quick Un-dead, your death would make you even as he is."

Roles of Men and Women
The novel underscores the expected roles of men and women in Victorian times. Women were expected to be gentle and ladylike and, most of all, subservient to men. For example, in one of her letters, Lucy notes, "My dear Mina, why are men so noble when we women are so little worthy of them?" Lucy is frustrated that she has to choose between her three suitors and does not wish to hurt any one of them by saying no. Lucy says, "Why can't they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble? But this is heresy, and I must not say it." Women are expected to live for their husbands, so much so that Mina practices her shorthand while Jonathan is away so that she can assist him when he gets back. Mina says, "When we are married I shall be able to be...

(The entire section is 839 words.)

Dracula Themes

The sexuality in the novel is so suppressed that it may not be recognized by readers, although it is now commonplace to find discussions of the sexual elements in critical discussions of the novel. Also, recent vampire movies, especially comedies, have exploited the sexuality inherent in the vampire legend. Even the earliest film versions focus on male vampires attacking beautiful female victims, asleep in alluring nightclothes.

What violence and sex there is in the novel is thematically important. Blood, which ties these two elements together, is used symbolically to suggest life and relationships, and has religious overtones as well. Dracula, the representation of evil, threatens everything good not just because he brings death, but because he drinks blood and therefore interferes with the other characters' relationships. Mina, for example, is bitten but not killed by Dracula, resulting in her emotional separation from her husband, friends, and even God.

In addition to the obvious conflict between good and evil in the novel, some Bram Stoker critics have also pointed to an East-West conflict and have viewed Dracula as a political allegory. This view is supported by the novel's setting and the characters' nationalities. Ultimately, this classic horror novel is reassuring, because the vampire is destroyed and the surviving characters' lives return to normal. The assurance of redemption in the novel is so strong that even the evil Dracula looks...

(The entire section is 243 words.)